Josh Reviews Trainwreck
I’m a huge Judd Apatow fan. Have been ever since I fell in love with Freaks and Geeks back in 1999. I adore that show, and its equally criminally underrated follow-up Undeclared. (Important note: Paul Feig was the co-creator of Freaks and Geeks.) When Judd Apatow found big-screen success with the brilliant The 40 Year-Old Virgin, I was thrilled. I love that movie and I watched it a lot in those first few years after it came out. It seemed like a perfect distillation of everything I’d enjoyed about those two failed TV shows. Knocked Up was just as much fun, but then came Funny People and This is 40. There is a lot to enjoy about both of those films. I think they’re far better than many reviewers gave them credit for being. But even I must admit that both of those films are a little bit too long, and perhaps a little bit too indulgent.
And so I was excited when the news came that Mr. Apatow’s fifth film as a director would be the first one he wasn’t writing himself. Trainwreck was written by and stars Amy Schumer. I loved the idea of Mr. Apatow’s voiced being combined with that of another strong comedian. That seemed like a good recipe for success and a nice change of pace for Mr. Apatow.
Trainwreck did not disappoint. Amy Schumer hits a huge home-run with her work in the film, creating a wonderfully raunchy, extremely funny comedy.
Amy Schumer plays Amy, an attractive thirty-something woman who has a nice life working for a trashy mens magazine and partying in New York City. She’s a serial dater who enjoys having a good time, and she looks down her nose a bit at her sister who is married with a stepson. When Amy gets roped into doing an assignment for her magazine interviewing a sports doctor, Aaron (Bill Hader), she is shocked to find out she actually likes this relatively normal, together, professional guy. Can she possibly hold down a stable, monogamous relationship?
The over-all story beats in Trainwreck are fairly predictable, with the film’s big idea being that it’s the woman who is the immature one who loves to go to parties and get drunk and/or stoned and date lots of different people. This would have felt a tad more ground-breaking a few years ago before Bridesmaids, but I certainly don’t think that one female-centric film means that whole idea is over-done. I hope we continue to see many great female-driven comedies in the future!! So let’s be clear: while I like the idea of a raunchy Judd Apatow comedy focused on a female character, there’s far more to this film than just that hook.
What makes Trainwreck work is Amy Schumer’s home-run of a performance. She is hugely great in this film, ferociously funny and note-perfect in pretty much every scene. She is so outrageous and so funny, but her performance also feels very honest and human in the way she portrays a fun-loving young woman who hasn’t really figured herself out yet (even though she thinks she has). This is a balance that is far harder than it looks. Many performers might have pushed this character into caricature, but Ms. Schumer is able to walk the line perfectly.
The great Bill Hader has already proven that he can knock ’em dead in roles that call for comedic work mixed with dramatic work (see: The Skeleton Twins) and he’s dynamite here as the male lead, the object of Amy’s affections. Mr. Hader is great as the straight-man to the boundary-pushing Amy. My only regret is that the very funny Mr. Hader doesn’t get much chance to be funny in the film. That’s just not what this role calls for.
The supporting cast is every bit as great as I have come to expect from a Judd Apatow film. Tilda Swinton kills as Amy’s horrible boss at the magazine. Ms. Swinton is nearly unrecognizable under a ton of make-up and a gloriously weird accent. She is absolutely perfect, just demolishing every scene she is in. In a far less showy role, Colin Quinn is equally as great as Amy’s father, Gordon. The flashback sequence with Gordon and his two daughters that opens the film is one of the best scenes in the movie. For the rest of the film, Mr. Quinn has to play old and sick, and he’s able to do incredibly well while also bringing the funny in a huge way. For weeks now everyone has written about how great LeBronn James is in this film, playing himself in the role of best pal and confidante to his doctor, Aaron (Bill Hader’s character), and he’s just as funny as you have read. Brie Larson is incredibly sweet and emotionally honest as Amy’s “settled-down” sister, Kim. Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) is terrific as the young intern in Amy’s office; the very buff John Cena is great as the poor sap who Amy is “dating” when the film opens; Vanessa Bayer is so funny as Amy’s friend and magazine co-worker, as is Randall Park as another magazine co-worker… and many other familiar faces pop up to land a joke in scenes throughout the movie.
The film’s ending is a little too pat and easy, and a little too familiar. The main character does something outlandish to win back his (in this case, her) paramour? Yeah, I’ve seen that a few zillion times before. As I wrote above, the story-beats in this film are pretty familiar. But the whole film is so funny, and so well-anchored by Ms. Schumer’s infectious energy, that it’s hard to complain. Yes, what Amy does at the end to win back Aaron doesn’t really make much sense when you stop to think about it. But Ms. Schumer is so funny and so endearing in the scene that it works.
Trainwreck is a great comedy, and a big loud announcement that Ms. Schumer is a comedic force to be reckoned with. I look forward to what I hope are many more films from her, and I hope Mr. Apatow continues to collaborate with other talented comic voices in his future films.